Maternal inflammation as indicated by the presence in maternal blood of early gestational C-reactive protein (an established inflammatory biomarker) appears to increase the risk for schizophrenia in offspring, a new study reveals. The findings were observed by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
The study, "Elevated Maternal C-Reactive Protein and Increased Risk of Schizophrenia in a National Birth Cohort," is published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The Columbia researchers with colleagues in Finland conducted an analysis of data from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Schizophrenia, a large, national birth cohort with an extensive bio-bank. They tested for the presence of C-reactive protein in the maternal blood of 777 offspring with schizophrenia and compared the findings with those from 777 control subjects.
Maternal C-reactive protein levels were assessed from archived maternal serum specimens. They found that increasing maternal C-reactive protein levels were significantly associated with development of schizophrenia in offspring and remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders such as parental history of psychiatric disorders, twin/singleton birth, location of birth, and maternal socioeconomic status. For every 1 mg/L increase in maternal C-reactive protein, the risk of schizophrenia increased by 28%.
There are many other known causes of inflammation, including tissue injury and autoimmune disease, although the researchers did not examine these specific conditions in this study.